Being accused or charged for a crime you did not commit is absolutely horrifying in this day and age, but the hard truth is that it still does happen. So, what is the story here, and how does this keep happening? This article explores some notable cases and statistics when it comes to wrongful imprisonment.
The Case of Cameron Todd Willingham
Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for the murder of his three children. He was accused of purposely setting fire to his home with the intent of harm. It was 13 years from his children’s death, to his own, with many investigations and appeals taking place in the interim.
In 2008, four years after Willingham’s death, the Texas Forensic Science Commission agreed to reopen and investigate the case, after it was discovered that identical evidence had been used to convict another prisoner of an arson attack in Texas.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence in this case, was an inmate who testified that Willingham had confessed to him. It was later revealed he had been coerced to do so, and it was in fact a false testimony.
In 2011, after much investigation, every piece of evidence used to convict Willingham was overturned and his name was clear. Unfortunately, Cameron had given his life due to the incompetence of fire experts and police.
The Case of Malcolm Alexander
Malcolm Alexander was convicted in 1980 for a sexual assault which occurred in 1979. He was sentenced to life without parole for the rape (at gunpoint) of a young woman. He was sentenced based on a wrongful identification by an eyewitness. In addition to this, evidence from the scene was destroyed before the recommended time after his conviction. Luckily, in 2013, hair evidence recovered from the scene of the crime was found in archives, and with new DNA technology, Alexander’s innocence was proven. He served 38 years in prison for this crime.
Shockingly, between 2% and 10% of prisoners in the United States are thought to have been wrongly convicted. This essentially means that at any given time, there are between 46,000 and 230,000 innocent individuals behind bars. Even more worrying, almost 24,000 years of prison time has been served by people who were later proven innocent.
There is an alarming trend in the ethnicity of people wrongly convicted, with over 60% being African American.
It is estimated based on past statistics that out of 100 prisoners on death row, four will be innocent, but only two will be exonerated, meaning that two out of every 100 prisoners are put to death for a crime they did not commit.
These statistics are very scary and unjust. If you or someone you know is the victim in such a case, then you should seek legal advice from a law firm specializing in wrongful convictions at the earliest opportunity. The USA has the highest conviction rate in the world, so it stands to reason it also has a high number of wrongful charges.
However, on a brighter note, the USA also has the highest number of overturned convictions, and so not all hope is lost if you or someone you love has been wrongly accused.
People are taught to trust in the justice system, but at times, they do get it wrong. The USA is putting in place measures to ensure that fewer wrongful convictions happen in the future.